FMCSA Saliva Testing Guidelines

As a truck driver, it’s crucial to meet specific requirements to maintain your commercial driver’s license (CDL). Whether you drive locally or across the country, you must adhere to regulations to ensure safety on the road.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have set these regulations, which mandate drug testing for all drivers during pre-employment screening and at certain intervals during employment.

As a truck driver, staying drug free is the key to passing federally-mandated tests. However, it can be just as important to understand the guidelines, which includes submitting “oral-fluid, or saliva, samples for testing.

At Fleet Drug Testing, we have all the programs and solutions you need to maintain compliance with all federal regulations. To get started, contact us today.

FMCSA and Saliva Samples For Drug Testing

As of May 2023, the FMCSA has begun authorizing the use of saliva samples for its drug tests. This decision supplements the current procedure for the program, which involves the use of urine samples for testing. As a method, saliva samples aren’t as commonly used when testing for banned substances, but has been known to be an effective alternative for detecting the presence of drugs in a person’s system.

As a truck driver or fleet manager, saliva samples have other benefits when it comes to using them for FMCSA testing:

  • Non-invasive – Collecting saliva samples is non-invasive and relatively simple compared to other methods like urine or blood tests. It doesn’t require specialized personnel or equipment for collection.
  • Convenience – Saliva samples can be collected on-site, making it convenient for both employers and employees. There’s no need for a dedicated collection facility, and the process is quicker.
  • Easier to provide a sample – Some individuals may find providing a saliva sample less invasive and more comfortable than providing a urine sample, especially in observed collection scenarios.
  • Harder to cheat – Saliva testing is difficult to cheat or tamper with compared to urine tests. It’s harder to substitute or dilute saliva samples.
  • Recent detection – Saliva tests are better suited for detecting recent drug use, as drugs are typically detectable in saliva for a shorter period compared to urine or hair.
  • Immediate results – Some saliva tests can provide rapid results on-site, allowing for quick decision-making in certain situations.
  • Lower costs – Collecting and handling saliva samples can be less expensive than urine or blood samples, as it doesn’t require specialized equipment for storage and transport.
  • Accuracy – Saliva tests can be accurate for detecting recent drug use, making them suitable for FMCSA testing scenarios, particularly post-accident or reasonable suspicion testing.
  • Ease of storage – Saliva samples are generally easier to store than urine samples, as they don’t require refrigeration.

Like any testing method, saliva samples have advantages and disadvantages. In the context of an FMCSA drug test, it’s more likely that you’ll have to provide a urine sample. That said, you now have the option to give a saliva sample as well. As such, you should understand how the procedure differs–if at all.

How Does the FMCSA Drug Testing Procedure Differ With a Saliva Sample?

The short answer here is that the process differs slightly from the normal FMCSA procedure in a few key ways, mostly having to do with the actual collection process:

  • Collection – Saliva samples are collected using a swab that is placed inside the mouth for a few minutes. Urine samples are collected into a cup.
  • Detection window – Saliva tests have a shorter detection window than urine tests. This means that saliva tests can only detect drug use that occurred within the past 24-36 hours, while urine tests can detect drug use that occurred within the past 24-72 hours.

Other than these differences, the FMCSA drug testing procedure is the same for both saliva and urine samples. This includes:

  • Chain of custody – The saliva sample must be collected and transported in a manner that ensures its integrity. This means that the sample must be sealed and labeled immediately after collection, and it must be transported to a certified laboratory within a certain amount of time.
  • Testing – The saliva sample will be tested for the presence of five specific drugs: cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines, methamphetamines, and opiates.
  • Results – If the saliva sample tests positive for any of the five drugs, the driver will be considered to be in violation of the FMCSA drug testing regulations.

It is important to note that the FMCSA does not currently allow saliva tests to be used for pre-employment drug testing. However, saliva tests can be used for all other types of FMCSA drug testing, including:

  • Random testing
  • Reasonable suspicion testing
  • Post-accident testing
  • Return-to-duty testing

As a truck driver, being aware of this different process can be helpful, but it’s ultimately up to you to make sure you can pass the drug test. Just like with a urine sample, a positive drug test result from a saliva sample can have a significant impact on your career.

How Does a Positive Drug Test Impact Your Career?

Not surprisingly, failing an FMCSA drug test can have a negative impact on your career as a truck driver. In the short-term, you’ll likely be taken off the road or removed from your position with your company until you can pass a follow-up test. In the long-term though, there’s other negative impacts that failing an FMCSA drug test can have on you:

  • Job loss – Most trucking companies have strict policies against drug use, and a positive drug test often results in immediate termination. Losing your job can be financially and professionally problematic for you.
  • License suspension – A positive drug test can lead to the suspension or revocation of your commercial driver’s license (CDL). This can make it extremely challenging to continue working as a truck driver in the future.
  • Legal consequences – In addition to employment-related consequences, a positive drug test may also lead to legal consequences, including fines, probation, or even imprisonment if you’re caught driving under the influence.
  • Damage to reputation – A positive drug test can tarnish your professional reputation within the trucking industry. Future employers may be hesitant to hire someone with a history of drug use.
  • Career limitations – A positive drug test can limit your career prospects within the trucking industry. You may find it challenging to secure a job with a reputable company, especially if you have multiple positive test results.
  • Financial impact – Job loss and legal issues resulting from a positive drug test can have a significant financial impact, affecting your ability to support yourself and your family.
  • Personal consequences – Substance abuse can have detrimental effects on your physical and mental health, personal relationships, and overall well-being.

Regardless of the personal and professional consequences, it’s always in your best interest to be prepared for any FMCSA drug test you’ll have to take. Whether you are asked to provide a saliva sample or a more common urine sample, following instructions and staying committed to not using banned substances can help you guarantee compliance.

Contact Fleet Drug Testing Today

No matter what your needs are as it relates to FMCSA drug testing, our professional team at Fleet Drug Testing has you covered. We have the resources to offer a full-service drug testing program for you or your company, and can help you find convenient testing locations near you. Contact us today to get started.

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